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City of Myrtle Beach making additional strides to revitalize Arts and Innovation District

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 9:02 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Some businesses say they’re excited to see major progress being made in the Arts and Innovation District in Downtown Myrtle Beach.

Scott Fleenor, manager at Jack Thompson Studios and Gallery, said the company has been preserving Myrtle Beach’s history for over 50 years through photographs.

Over time, he says the downtown traffic in that area has changed - which is one of the reasons he’s excited about the city’s plans to revitalize the area. He feels it will attract even more business on his street.

Fleenor also said he’s going to enjoy seeing the process of storefronts along 9th Avenue North going up because it’s reflecting how businesses are moving in - adding it’s a sign towards booming in the area again.

“Not a lot of people paid attention to this area,” he said. “But now that they’re rebuilding it, it’s getting a lot more attention. It will help get tourists back in here.”

City leaders say they’re making huge strides with the master plan to make the Arts and Innovation District a “place to go,” especially along 9th Avenue North. During a meeting on Thursday, officials said they made more progress on securing storefronts for buildings along the street.

Lauren Clever, Director for the Downtown Development Office, said although it’s taken a long time to see progress, seeing the downtown area flourish with more businesses will make the wait well worth it.

“We’ve gotten through our first phase which is 9th Avenue North, and doing renovations on those buildings,” she said. “Now we’re getting tenants in those buildings. We saw that today with Le Manna Bread Company, being the very first tenant that has signed a lease. We also have our co-working space that is going to be leased out as well so we’ll have two tenants. That’s going to continue to roll, that’s what we want, we want that energy to keep moving.”

Clever says the next step is to create a vision book for private investors.

She says it will show developers what Myrtle Beach has to offer while opening their eyes to potential opportunities in the Arts and Innovation District.

“To show that what we say we want is actually a viable project and that the market supports in Myrtle Beach,” Clever said. “It’s not just throwing something out there and seeing if it sticks, we’ve done our homework and that’s what we want to show to folks.”

Clever says the vision book is expected to be available next year, sometime in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the city’s development vision will also be assisting leaders with attracting investors, is set to support their work with developing the area.

Amy Barrett, President and CEO of the organization, said she’s excited to be a part of a team that will assist with helping to attract investors to Myrtle Beach.

“The city is not going to be building apartments and offices, we need the private sector to come in and make those projects really take off,” she said. “I see that as part of the alliance mission, to really have those conversations with private sector investors and to understand what their needs are and how to make that happen.”

Bonds to help finance development projects

City leaders now have another option with helping them with future projects.

Myrtle Beach City Council passed an ordinance that allows them to issue up to $20 million in TIF, or Tax Increment Financing, bonds to finance certain redevelopment projects.

It allows the city to put the additional increase in property tax revenue towards future development projects.

The revenue is based on the tax difference from a specific base or “zero” year. For Myrtle Beach, city leaders say that base year was back in 2009.

That means the revenue growth from property taxes dating back to 12 years ago can be used to pay for public projects in the TIF district.

“It’s not a new tax. It’s setting aside much like a savings account the property tax growth that occurs after the initial year and you use that for bonds,” said city spokesman Mark Kruea. “The growth that’s occurring will help pay for the bonds, and those bonds will help create more opportunities for additional property tax growth.”

Kruea also illustrated how the TIF process works.

“If the initial [zero year] property tax for the area was $1 million, you then have $3 million worth of property tax [the next year], then that extra $2 million can be set aside to pay for bonds to provide for certain projects that will occur,” he said.

The Oceanfront Redevelopment District is part of a TIF district, which extends to the Arts and Innovation District. City leaders said allowing the spending is a step in the right direction towards revitalizing the downtown space.

“We think we have enough growth in it already to cover the $20 million bonds, we’re very close to that, so we’re ready to go with some projects in the downtown area,” Kruea added.

The ordinance lists some of the projects that are considered to be eligible to be funded using the TIF revenue:

  • Performing Arts Theatre
  • New Library and Children’s Museum
  • Renovations to existing Chapin Memorial Library structure
  • A city square
  • Public utility and streetscape improvements
  • Restoration of transitional properties located within the redevelopment area

Kruea says TIF is something the city has in place at The Market Common for the redevelopment of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

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